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Chaordic Leadership Principles

In anticipation of the possibility that week's Seattle Times article about Interrelativity might generate increased interest in the company, I updated our web site ... including my curriculum vitae (CV, aka resumé), both the short and long versions.  I decided to include a section in the latter document about my approach to leadership, which I have assembled by consciously and unconsciously adopting the best practices, and avoiding the worst practices, of the leadership I have subjected myself to over the years ... much as I believe my approach to parenting and teaching have evolved (which, I suppose, are simply instances of leadership).

My approach to team building is to bring together people with complementary skills, experiences and perspectives, who share a strong passion and aspiration toward a common goal, provide them with as many resources and as few constraints as possible, and essentially stay out of their way as they engage their creative energies in innovative ways that maximize the positive impact of the entire team.

As I mentioned in my recent post on Intelligence, Advice, Investment and Politics, I remember being inspired by a quote from Dee Hock, the founder of Visa International and co-founder of the Interra Project, that I read about in Guy Kawasaki's book, The Art of the Start:

It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.

Googling around for the context of this quote led me to an article on The Art of Chaordic Leadership written by Dee in Leader to Leader, 15 (Winter 2000): 20-26.  This is one of the most powerful, succinct and sensible descriptions of how to lead I've ever seen ... and I was happy to see that the approach that I thought I've been making up as I go along had some firmer ground on which to stand.  As with my recent post on entrepreneurial proverbs, I won't go into a more full analysis here, but simply note the bullet points in the summary from the original article:

On Chaordic Leadership

Many convictions about leadership have served me well over the years. Although each of these few examples could benefit from pages of explication, a few words may provide insight to chaordic leadership.

  • Power: True power is never used. If you use power, you never really had it.
  • Human Relations: First, last, and only principle -- when dealing with subordinates, repeat silently to yourself, "You are as great to you as I am to me, therefore, we are equal." When dealing with superiors, repeat silently to yourself, "I am as great to me as you are to you, therefore we are equal."
  • Criticism: Active critics are a great asset. Without the slightest expenditure of time or effort, we have our weakness and error made apparent and alternatives proposed. We need only listen carefully, dismiss that which arises from ignorance, ignore that which arises from envy or malice, and embrace that which has merit.
  • Compensation: Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. It can rent the body and influence the mind but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and ethics.
  • Ego, Envy, Avarice, and Ambition: Four beasts that inevitably devour their keeper. Harbor them at your peril, for although you expect to ride on their back, you will end up in their belly.
  • Position: Subordinates may owe a measure of obedience by virtue of your position, but they owe no respect save that which you earn by your daily conduct. Without their respect, your authority is destructive.
  • Mistakes: Toothless little things, providing you can recognize them, admit them, correct them, learn from them, and rise above them. If not, they grow fangs and strike.
  • Accomplishment: Never confuse activity with productivity. It is not what goes in your end of the pipe that matters, but what comes out the other end. Everything but intense thought, judgment, and action is infected to some degree with meaningless activity. Think! Judge! Act! Free others to do the same!
  • Hiring: Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is stupid to replicate your weakness. Employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability and judgment are radically different from your own and recognize that it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.
  • Creativity: The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.
  • Listening: While you can learn much by listening carefully to what people say, a great deal more is revealed by what they do not say. Listen as carefully to silence as to sound.
  • Judgment: Judgment is a muscle of the mind developed by use. You lose nothing by trusting it. If you trust it and it is bad, you will know quickly and can improve it. If you trust it and it is consistently good, you will succeed, and the sooner the better. If it is consistently good and you don't trust it, you will become the saddest of all creatures; one who could have succeeded but followed the poor judgment of others to failure.
  • Leadership: Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia.
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